Indianz.Com > News > Muscogee Nation: Tribal sovereignty is not a threat to Oklahoma
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R): Tulsa Regional Chamber’s State of the State – August 26, 2021
Muscogee Nation: Tribal sovereignty is not a threat to Oklahoma
Friday, August 27, 2021
Source: Muscogee Nation

The following is the text of an August 26, 2021, statement from the Muscogee Nation.

The Muscogee Nation has a few updates and corrections to the remarks that Oklahoma Governor Stitt delivered at the Tulsa Regional Chamber of Commerce’s annual State of the State meeting.

We limit our focus here to the Governor’s statements about the effects of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2020 ruling in the landmark McGirt v. Oklahoma case that had the effect of re-affirming our tribal sovereignty.

First, “McGirt” is not the biggest problem or threat to Oklahoma. The implementation of changes in criminal jurisdiction and other matters is well under way. The sentencing of Jimcy McGirt in U.S. District Court to three life sentences is a prime example of an orderly process that preserves public safety and delivers justice in the lawful, appropriate venue.

David Hill
Chief David Hill of the Muscogee Nation. Photo: Muscogee Nation

For a very real threat to Oklahoma, no one needs to look further than the effects of COVID-19. We and other tribes are working to be a part of that solution – with free-to-all vaccination clinics, contributions of masks for schools and by implementing access and distancing measures in our own facilities to protect everyone’s health.

The most harmful lie here, though, is the notion that the Supreme Court’s McGirt ruling “creates a public-safety nightmare for victims and law enforcement.” This is false.

Every crime in Oklahoma falls under local, state, federal or tribal jurisdiction. No matter where it happens in the state, criminals are arrested, prosecuted and face justice.

The Supreme Court provided a new clarity that enables state, local and tribal governments to collaborate and combine resources to improve public safety and economic growth in ways previously not possible.

Cross-deputization puts more police on the streets – and makes it seamless for law-enforcement to respond and arrest criminals regardless of whether they are Native or non-Native. The addition of federal and tribal courts mean more resources to prosecute crime, not less.

Muscogee Nation
Headquarters of the Muscogee Nation in Okmulgee, Oklahoma. Photo: Muscogee Nation

We must work together to turn these opportunities into reality. Unfortunately, the Governor has chosen to abstain from this process.

The Governor told a story that made it seem like the Tulsa Police might not be able to make an arrest in downtown Tulsa if the perpetrator was Native. That is false.

The Tulsa Police and Muscogee Nation’s Lighthorse law-enforcement arm have cross-deputization agreements (as do most other law-enforcement agencies within the boundaries of the Muscogee Reservation). That means each force has the right to pursue and arrest anyone, as usual – Native or non-Native. Where the crime gets prosecuted is sorted out after the fact. Again, this amounts to more police on the street.

The Governor told another story that made it seem like Native criminals who vandalized a store might not get prosecuted. That is false. Criminals will be prosecuted in the lawful, appropriate venue – which might be federal court or tribal court, depending on the crime. Native or non-Native, criminals will face justice.

It is unfortunate that the Governor persists on the taxpayer-burdening litany of litigation in attempts to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the McGirt case. He pleads that if the decision isn’t overturned, “there is no state.” That is false.

The state hasn’t lost any ability to enforce the law; it simply had to stop illegally enforcing it where it has no jurisdiction. The Muscogee Nation has repeatedly invited the Governor to join forces and partner with us, but he refuses. Our invitation remains open to collaborate to address issues of common concern

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision gives the tribes and the state new ways to work together for the better of everyone who lives in Oklahoma. The Governor’s goal to return to the wrong and unlawful past just because generations of Oklahomans have gotten used to it is deeply flawed and extraordinarily divisive.

The Muscogee Nation remains committed to working collaboratively with institutions across Oklahoma to implement the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2020 ruling.

The Muscogee Nation is a self-governed Native American tribe with headquarters in Okmulgee, Oklahoma. The Muscogee Nation is one of the Five Tribes. Its sovereign territory covers 4,867 square miles in 11 Oklahoma counties. With 92,000 Muscogee Nation citizens, it constitutes the fourth-largest tribe within the United States. The Muscogee Nation government is comprised of an executive branch, a legislative body and a tribal court system.

Related Stories

Muscogee Nation proclaims Sovereignty Day on anniversary of historic Supreme Court ruling (July 9, 2021)

Gaylord News: Funding bill passes without additional support for tribal justice systems (August 2, 2021)

Peter d’Errico: Racist Indian law doctrine springs into action (October 8, 2020)